The Monuments Men

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The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Clooney
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • George Clooney
  • Grant Heslov
Based onThe Monuments Men 
by Robert M. Edsel
Starring
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Editing byStephen Mirrione
Studio
Distributed by
Release dates
  • February 5, 2014 (2014-02-05) (Jamaica)
  • February 7, 2014 (2014-02-07) (United States)
  • February 20, 2014 (2014-02-20) (Germany)
  • February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) (United Kingdom)
Running time118 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • Germany
LanguageEnglish
(some German, French, Russian)
Budget$70 million[2][3]
Box office$86,378,518[3]
 
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The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Clooney
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • George Clooney
  • Grant Heslov
Based onThe Monuments Men 
by Robert M. Edsel
Starring
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Editing byStephen Mirrione
Studio
Distributed by
Release dates
  • February 5, 2014 (2014-02-05) (Jamaica)
  • February 7, 2014 (2014-02-07) (United States)
  • February 20, 2014 (2014-02-20) (Germany)
  • February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) (United Kingdom)
Running time118 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • Germany
LanguageEnglish
(some German, French, Russian)
Budget$70 million[2][3]
Box office$86,378,518[3]

The Monuments Men is a 2014 American-German[4][5] war film directed by George Clooney, written and produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov, and starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett. Based on the non-fiction book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel, the film follows an allied group, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, tasked with finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally important items before their destruction by Hitler during World War II.[6][7]

The film, co-produced by Columbia Pictures (in association with 20th Century Fox) and Babelsberg Studio, was released on February 7, 2014.[8][9]

Story[edit]

In 1943 during World War II, the Allies are making good progress driving back the Axis powers in Italy. However, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) persuades the US President that victory will have little meaning if the art treasures of Western civilization are lost in the fighting, either as collateral damage in combat or looted. To minimize that threat, Stokes is directed to assemble an Army unit nicknamed the "Monuments Men" comprising seven museum directors, curators, and art historians to both guide Allied units and search for stolen art to return it to the rightful owners.

In occupied France, Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a curator in Paris, is forced to allow Nazi officers like Viktor Stahl to oversee the theft of art for either Adolf Hitler's proposed Führermuseum in Linz, or as the personal property of senior commanders like Herman Goering. While she is nearly arrested for helping her Maquis brother unsuccessfully recapture such items, all seems lost when she discovers that Stahl is taking all of her gallery's contents to Germany as the Allies approach Paris. When she runs to the railyard to confront Stahl, he fires on her with his pistol; although she does not seek cover, she is not hit, but can only watch helplessly as Stahl escapes with the stolen artwork.

As for Stokes' unit, they find their work is frustrated by their own side's combat units who refuse to restrict their tactical options for the sake of preserving architecture, while James Granger (Matt Damon) finds that Simone will not cooperate with those whom she suspects are art looters themselves. The unit splits up for various objectives with varying degrees of success. Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) of the British Army attempts to arrange the safety of a Belgian church with valuable artwork and is killed attempting to prevent the Nazi Colonel Wegner from stealing a statue of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo.

Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) attempt to track down a stolen Belgian panel set of religious artwork (the Van Eyck altarpiece looted from Ghent cathedral), and in doing so, find and arrest Viktor Stahl, hiding as a farmer, when they identify the paintings in his house as originals stolen from the Rothschild Collection. Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) are caught in a crossfire of a battle and Clermont is mortally wounded. Meanwhile, Simone reconsiders when Granger shows her the Nero Decree to destroy all German possessions if Hitler dies or Germany falls, and when she sees Granger return a painting looted from a Jewish family murdered in the death camps to its rightful place as a symbolic gesture. Realizing the Americans are serious in their intentions, she eventually provides a comprehensive ledger that provides valuable information to identify stolen art.

Even as the team learn that the artwork is being stored in various mines and castles, they also learn that they must now compete against the Soviet Union who have units of their own seizing artwork as war reparations. Meanwhile, Colonel Wegner is systematically removing and destroying whole art collections as per orders. Eventually, the team have some success as they discover at least one mine with over 16,000 art pieces as well as grotesque caches as barrels of gold teeth from victims of the death camps. In addition, they also discover gold assets of the Nazi German national treasury, whose capture effectively bankrupts the regime.

Finally, they find a mine in Austria that seems destroyed and is in what should become part of the Soviet occupation zone. However, the team discover that only the entrances were damaged by the locals in order to fool the Nazis and they manage to gain entry even as their fellows delay the oncoming Soviets. As a result, the team evacuate as much artwork as possible, including the sculpture Jeffries died defending, before the Soviets arrive.

Finally, Stokes reports to President Truman that they have recovered vast quantities of artwork and various other culturally significant items. As he requests to stay in Europe to oversee further searching and restoration, Truman asks if his efforts were worth it. Stokes firmly replies it was.

Decades later, the elderly Stokes (Nick Clooney) takes his grandson to see Michelangelo's Madonna sculpture, amid large crowds of youth appreciating the pieces of humanity's creativity that his men sacrificed so much to preserve in war.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Douglas C-47 Skytrain Dakota landing at Duxford Air Field during filming at Imperial War Museum Duxford, England.

The Monuments Men is an American-German co-production of Columbia Pictures (in association with 20th Century Fox) and Studio Babelsberg.[10] The film was funded by the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg as well as Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg.[11][12]

Principal photography began in early March 2013 at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany, and in the Berlin-Brandenburg region and the Harz, where the Town of Osterwieck was a particularly important place for some outdoor scenes. A cast of thousands was needed for the military scenes.[13][14] Some of the scenes, including flights and American war base footage, were filmed at Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK.[15][16]

Filming was scheduled to last until the end of June 2013, wrapping up in Rye, East Sussex.[8]

Release[edit]

The film was originally set to be released on December 18, 2013.[17] A trailer was released on August 8, 2013.[18] On October 22, 2013, the film was pushed back to an unspecified date in February 2014, because post-production was taking longer than expected due to issues balancing humor with the serious nature of the subject matter.[19][20] On October 24, 2013, it was announced that the film would screen on February 7, 2014 at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.[21][22]

Reception[edit]

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin and producer Grant Heslov in Paris at the film's French premiere, February 2014.

The Monuments Men has received mixed to negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 34% rating, with an average score of 5.2/10, based on 193 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men's stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative."[23] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 52 out of 100, based on 41 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[24]

Film critic Peter Travers in Rolling Stone Magazine gave it 3 out of 4 stars, noting that while some of the dialog and emotions seemed inauthentic, the physical production and cinematography was "exquisite," with shooting done on locations in Germany and England.[25] In comparing the film with current ones, he considers it a "proudly untrendy, uncynical movie," where the story involved people seeking something more valuable than money: "Clooney [as director] feels there's much to be learned from these unsung art warriors. . . . What Clooney has crafted in The Monuments Men is a movie about aspiration, about culture at risk, about things worth fighting for. I'd call that timely and well worth a salute."[25]

Film critic Steve Pulaski of Influx Magazine gave the film a middling C- grade and stated, "The Monuments Men is a historical comedy-drama with a very intriguing history, but comedy that isn’t funny and drama that isn’t always interesting."[26] Historian Alex von Tunzelmann, writing for The Guardian noted several historical faults, and said of the plot "If you're getting the sense that the film is episodic and poorly structured, unfortunately you'd be right", and "There are far too many characters, so the screenplay splits them up into little groups and sends them off on various errands. Some of these are more exciting than others – but they do not add up to a satisfying plot. A TV series might have been a better vehicle for the "monuments men" stories than a feature film... The story is fascinating, but this film's good intentions are hampered by its lack of pace, direction, tone and properly fleshed-out characters."[27]

In its review Spanish newspaper La Razón says The Monuments Men follows the model of a "Hollywood war propaganda" movie.[28]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Dr Nigel Pollard of Swansea University awarded the film two stars out of five for historical accuracy.[29] Pollard wrote that "There’s a kernel of history there, but The Monuments Men plays fast and loose with it in ways that are probably necessary to make the story work as a film, but the viewer ends up with a fairly confused notion of what the organisation [the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives programme (MFAA)] was, and what it achieved. The real organisation was never a big one (a few dozen officers at most), but the film reduces it to just seven men to personalise the hunt for the looted art: five Americans, one British officer (Hugh Bonneville) and a Free French officer, marginalising the British role in the establishment of the organisation. This is presented as set up at Clooney’s initiative after the bombing of Monte Cassino (so, after February 1944). In fact, its origins actually went back to British efforts in Libya in 1942, and it already existed (albeit with teething troubles) when the Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943."

von Tunzelmann, in her Guardian review, also noted basic errors in the film: "[M]useum curator Frank Stokes... tries to persuade American commanders that European art is worth saving. "This is Da Vinci's Last Supper," he says, showing them a slide. A poor start. It's actually Leonardo's Last Supper; Da Vinci is not Leonardo's surname. Vinci was the town he came from. Calling him "Da Vinci" is like saying "of Nazareth" instead of Jesus or "of Troy" instead of Helen. No museum curator worth their salt has ever called him Da Vinci, especially not in 1943. The error became common only after Dan Brown made it 60 years later in the title of his bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code."[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/releases/monuments-men-film
  2. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (February 4, 2014). "George Clooney on the Epic Battle to Make ‘Monuments Men’". Variety. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b The Monuments Men at Box Office Mojo Retrieved February 6, 2014
  4. ^ Scott Foundas (29 January 2014). "In his fifth directorial feature, George Clooney transforms a fascinating art-world detective story into a surprisingly lifeless prestige picture.". Variety. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Michael Rosser (8 November 2013). "Monuments Men heading to Berlin". Screen Daily. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "George Clooney Sets Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin For WWII Drama ‘The Monuments Men’". Deadline. Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Directors' Page". Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (March 5, 2013). "Production Begins on George Clooney’s THE MONUMENTS MEN Starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray". Collider.com. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (2013-10-22). "George Clooney's Monuments Men Pushed to 2014 | TIME.com". Entertainment.time.com. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  10. ^ "THE MONUMENTS MEN, Directed by and Starring George Clooney, Begins Production in Germany" (Press release). Studio Babelsberg. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Rekordwert für den Deutschen Filmförderfonds". Bundesregierung - Federal Republic of Germany. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "George Clooney zurück in Berlin: Studio Babelsberg Koproduktion Monuments Men – Ungewöhnliche Helden hat Premiere auf der Berlinale" (Press release). Studio Babelsberg. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Komparsen für Clooney-Film in Babelsberg gesucht". Berlin.de, Official Berlin press release (in German). Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Tausende Berliner Männer als Komparsen für die Dreharbeiten des historischen Kinofilmes THE MONUMENTS MEN" (in German (Appears to be accessible only if the browser's language is German.)). Babelsberg Studios press release. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "IN PICTURES: Hollywood stars come to Cambridge as George Clooney films Monuments Men with Matt Damon and John Goodman". Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  16. ^ "George Clooney and Matt Damon try out Cambridge gym". Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ Han, Angie (December 7, 2012). "Release Dates: George Clooney’s ‘Monuments Men’ Slotted for December 2013, Terence Malick’s ‘To the Wonder’ Announces April Release". /Film. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (August 8, 2012). "'Monuments Men' trailer finds George Clooney and Matt Damon on the hunt for stolen art". HitFix. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  19. ^ "George Clooney Stuggles With Tone of 'Monuments Men': 'It's Been a Bit of a Dance' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-01-30. 
  20. ^ "The Monuments Men Moves to 2014". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  21. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'Monuments Men' Release Date - Set For February 7, 2014". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  22. ^ "The Monuments Men in the Official Programme of the 64th Berlinale". berlinale.de. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "The Monuments Men (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  24. ^ "The Monuments Men". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Travers, Peter. "The Monuments Men" Review, Rolling Stone, Jan. 21, 2014
  26. ^ http://influxmagazine.com/the-monuments-men/
  27. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/feb/20/monuments-men-reel-history-true-story
  28. ^ «Monuments men»: Barras y estrellas
  29. ^ "Historian at the Movies: The Monuments Men reviewed". History Extra. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  30. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/feb/20/monuments-men-reel-history-true-story

External links[edit]